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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 1000


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

 


Dr KLUGMAN - I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, for introducing this Bill so early in the session. I think it is an important Bill. It is a Bill that quite clearly distinguishes us from the Australian Country Party. I think the significant advantage of introducing this legislation so early is that if the Senate should decide to reject the Bill and then to reject it again in August, or whenever the 3 months period is up, we should be able to have a double dissolution at a time when the Senate elections normally would be due to take place. I congratulate the Minister for not delaying the introduction of this proposition.

One of the interesting things about the discussion of this Bill, of course, has been the complete difference in attitude, though probably not in voting on the measure, between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. The Country Party pooh-poohs the proposition of one man one vote and believes that this is certainly not the sort of thing that one should support. The Country Party has decided, quite correctly from its point of view, that this principle would act to its disadvantage. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) speaking on this Bill last Thursday evening, in regard to one vote one value said:

I do not reject that concept but I say quite specifically and unequivocally that there is no time at which that can be achieved in all its pristine purity.

He went on to say:

It is therefore necessary to realise while it may be a fundamental objective to be sought it must be understood to be incapable of actual achievement at any time. Nevertheless the law should do what it can to as near as practicably achieve it.

I think the important point made by the Leader of the Opposition is that he does aim to achieve it and it is not surprising that he should aim for this because the Liberal Party in many ways is in fact the Party that is most discriminated against under the present setup.

The figures showing the total area of electoral divisions held by each political party in each State, Territory and throughout Australia as a whole are interesting. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out these figures.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

 


Dr KLUGMAN - We find that the Australian Labor Party holds in 6 States, excluding the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, 62.81 per cent of the area. If we include the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory we come down to about 52 per cent of Australia as a whole. This is approximately the proportion of votes that the Labor Party received at the last election, and it is approximately the proportion of representatives we have in this House. So that is fair enough. I am not complaining. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, holds only 9.98 per cent of the total area in the 6 States and only 8.22 per cent of the total area of Australia. The Country Party holds 27.21 per cent in the 6 States and 40 per cent of Australia as a whole, if one includes the Northern Territory.

I feel that the Leader of the Opposition, when speaking undoubtedly for the Liberal Party alone and not for the Country Party, put up a reasonable argument that he is in favour of one vote one value and that this Parliament should legislate to achieve this end as nearly as practicable. In his speech on the Bill last Thursday night he said:

The Liberal Party believes that our purpose in shaking this legislation should be commenced by 4 basic principles. Firstly, that parliamentary democracy must be preserved and be seen to be preserved; secondly, electorates should as near as practicable, be equal in numbers through the expected lifetime of the distribution; thirdly, to prevent excessive sectional representation in the Parliament; and, fourthly, to prevent the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries.

I certainly would not disagree with him on the propositions which he put forward. He went on to say:

Our purpose is to maintain, as far as is practicable and fair, the principle of one vote one value.

The Liberal Party believes that the electoral commissioners when drawing up a distribution should have sufficient tolerance above or below the average to enable them to judge population movements to achieve equality about mid-term.

I think the important point to remember - and 1 hope that the Distribution Commissioners will remember this - is that the Liberal Party and the Labor Parly, the parties in this House which represent the vast majority of the people of Australia, agree that the main approach in redistribution should be on the basis of population and the main variation within the 10 per cent or 20 per cent, whatever it may be at the time of the redistribution, should be on the basis of expected population changes during the next few years. 1 think it is important to recognise this.

The Labor Party obviously is disadvantaged at the present time. The tables attached to the Minister's second reading speech show that in New South Wales - I am dealing only with New South Wales today - 9 of the 10 electorates with the highest population are held by the Australian Labor Party. In order of highest population they are Werriwa, Chifley, Cunningham, Mitchell, Grayndler, Prospect, Parramatta - the only seat that is held by the Liberal Party - Macarthur, Sydney and Macquarie. Nine out of the 10 are each represented by one single Labor Party member in this House and only one by the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), representing Werriwa as he does, on 30th June 1971 represented a population of 142,568, nearly twice as many people as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, represented in this House - a total number of 80,475. Since then the position would have worsened from our point of view because Werriwa's population is increasing and the people of Lyne are leaving that electorate. Even though the electoral commissioners will distribute electorates on the basis of actual electors 1 hope they will also look at the matter from the point of view of the total population, realising that we represent not only people who will have a vote at the next election but also people who do nol have a vote either because they are too young or because they are not yet naturalised.

Last week we had the spectacle of the Country Party and the Liberal Party fighting in this House and voting against one another over the relative salaries of the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Australian Country Party. We were assured that this argument was a purely symbolic argument. We were told that the Leader of the Australian Country Party, of course, did not need more money but that he was only symbolically trying to show how important the Country Party was. 1 do not think that anybody in this House listening to the debate on electoral redistribution would believe for one moment that this matter is a symbolic argument so far as the Country Party is concerned. It would not care a hoot about symbols on this issue. All it is concerned about is preserving its small electorates.


Mr Corbett - Small electorates? Where did you get that from?


Dr KLUGMAN - I mean small in terms of population. I think it is important that we do not finish up with extreme gerrymanders. This applies whether we are talking about State Houses or the Commonwealth Parliament. I suppose the most extreme gerrymanders from opposite sides have occurred in Queensland. We can see the sorts of people they have produced as Premiers. Firstly we had Vince Gair as Premier as the result of the Labor gerrymander. Currently Mr Bjelke-Petersen is the Premier, again because of an extreme gerrymander. I think few people in this country will dispute my proposition that this sort of gerrymander does not bring to the top the best people as Premiers in that State.

Sitting suspended from 6. J 4 to 8 p.m.


Dr KLUGMAN - Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing the Commonweatlh Electoral Bill, which, basically, has 2 aims. One aim is to change the present 20 per cent population margin between electorates which can be allowed by the Distribution Commissioners. The second aim is to remove the proposition that distance and size of an electorate should be the main factors considered in giving effect to the 20 per cent margin. I was pointing out that there was a significant difference - in fact, there is a complete opposition - between the points of view expressed by the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Australian Country Party, both of whom have spoken in this debate. The Leader of the Country Party strongly opposed the proposition of one vote, one value. The Leader of the Liberal Party, as Leader of the Opposition, when speaking last Thursday strongly supported the proposition of one vote, one value and said that the main factor to be taken into account by the Commissioners at the next redistribution should be the likely changes in the population of the electorates during the next 3 to 6 years. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition on this point; I think all members on this side of the House would agree with him. 1 wonder whether some compromise cannot be reached between us. I am not sure that much compromise would be required because most of us on this side of the House would agree that if the 20 per cent margin exists purely for the purpose of allowing for changes in population, that margin should be applied.

The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who spoke before 1 did this afternoon, did not pretend that the difference between the Liberal Party and the Country Party today was a symbolic difference. That may have been so last week on the question of the difference in salary as between the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr Lynch) and the Leader of the Country Party. Last week, honourable members may recall that we were told that a symbolic difference existed between them, lt was maintained that, in fact, the Leader of the Country Party could buy us all and that the question of money was only a question of symbolism. The honourable member for Gwydir and, I think, the other members of the Country Party who have spoken in this debate, have shown quite clearly that no symbolic question is involved in this issue, but that they are worried about losing their seats. The honourable member for Gwydir referred to the 2 new electoral divisions which are to be formed in the western suburbs of Sydney and he made the categorical statement that they would replace 2 rural seats. 1 hope that that is so, but if we looked at the figures for the Sydney metropolitan area I think we probably would find that only one of the scats that would be abolished would be a rural seat and that the other would be from the inner area of Sydney. I think we must again pay tribute to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who introduced this Bill, and point out how unselfish he has been on this issue because his seat is one of the seats that has a relatively small population, lt is almost approaching the population of the major Country Party seats and certainly is on the way down in regard to population. The honourable member for Gwydir also made the point that the principle of one vote, one value does not exist anymore. If the honourable member was referring to individual electorates, 1 agree with him. The principle of 100 per cent one vote, one value could not operate. But if there were proportional representation for an entire State or for the Commonwealth, we would have one vote, one value.

The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) attacked the Government on the rather shallow proposition that in South Australia and Western Australia there existed a gerrymander much worse than the one which exists in the Commonwealth today. 1 do not fully understand the honourable member's proposition but 1 think the implication was that there were Labor governments in South Australia and Western Australia and yet this sort of gerrymander existed in those Stales. Surely it is quite obvious that the gerrymander in those States was introduced by Liberal-Country Party governments. Those Parties control the upper Houses in both South Australia and Western Australia and it is impossible for those Labor governments to change the position. It certainly is not in the interests of the present governments in either South Australia or Western Australia to continue the gerrymander and with the extreme loading that exists in country electorates in these 2 States.

Another point of interest to me was that when the honourable member for Moreton was talking about the electorate of Kennedy he made the point that there was no community of interest between Mount Isa and Kingaroy. I assume that Kingaroy is outside the electorate of Kennedy at present; Mount Isa is in the electorate. This seems to be a far fetched sort of argument. What is the proposition? In the case of huge electorates or even an electorate of medium size, such as the one represented in this Parliament by the honourable member for Gwydir, there obviously would be no community of interest between areas that are some distance apart. Probably no community of interest exists in the Sydney metropolitan area between residents of Vaucluse and Paddington. There may be community of interest on the matter of transport to the eastern suburbs, but even there I doubt whether people in Vaucluse would adopt the same attitude as would those in Paddington. Certainly, the sort of people who live in Vaucluse and the sort of people who live in many areas of Paddington do not have a common interest. The proposition that apparently wa9 put up by the honourable member for Moreton is that there must be a complete community of interest to have one electorate. I completely disagree with the honourable member. In fact, in a pluralist society like Australia it is difficult to argue what community of interest exists between any 2 people or number of groups of people and whether, at any point, the people are completely opposed in regard to community of interest.

I have about one minute remaining to me to speak on this Bill. Earlier I mentioned the case of the honourable member for McMillan and somebody came to me and asked me to repeat what I had said and, for the benefit of those present, I will repeat it. The honourable member for McMillan is a newly elected member of this House. He has made speeches in which he has strongly supported the present system of election to this House and the present form of democracy which exists in this House. The honourable member for McMillan now is nodding his head. I am not surprised that he supports this principle because he was elected to this House from a country seat with 16.6 per cent of the primary vote. With just over 8,000 primary votes, he represents the people of McMillan - nearly 50,000 electors - in this House. That is a ridiculous state of affairs. Considering the views of the honourable member I am not surprised that he received only 8,000 odd votes. The views that he expressed in his maiden speech were the views of the League of Rights and it is surprising and deplorable to me that people with views such as those should receive even 8,000 votes in any electorate in Australia. But I was pleased that even in an electorate such as McMillan he was able to receive only 16 per cent of the vote. I am quite sure that the honourable member for McMillan will not be here after the next election. I will be interested to hear his reply to my claim.







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